Hatred, exclusion and verbal violence not only violate individuals’ personal rights, but pose a growing threat to our liberal democracies. Countless messages of hate are posted online every day, spreading around the world with a single click. Particularly on social media, hate speech corrodes the culture of debate and the solidarity among internet users in our open societies. Words are often followed by deeds.
These challenges and potential counter-strategies were discussed by Foreign Minister Maas, Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Marija Pejčinović Burić and Minister of State for Europe Roth on 18 February 2021 at the virtual conference “Unboxing Hate Speech – European Impulses for Respect and Solidarity on the Web” organised in collaboration with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.
European Impulses for Respect and Solidarity
The conference participants hope to develop Europe-wide approaches to ensuring greater respect and solidarity online, together with representatives of civil society, the media, science and research, and tech companies. Held as part of Germany’s Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the conference thus aims to help defend freedom of speech while also effectively tackling hate speech. What work is being done in this area by civil society organisations across Europe? What experience has been gained to date in the member states of the Council of Europe? What role can the Council of Europe play?
By exploring these issues, the conference provides important input for the work of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on Combating Hate Speech. This group was set up to draft political and legal recommendations for the member states.
The Council of Europe has stood for human rights, democracy and the rule of law since 1949. It has 47 member states. Safeguarding human rights on the internet and fighting online hatred and hate speech is one priority of Germany’s Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe from November 2020 to May 2021.